Our world is beginning to turn green again, as spring slowly creeps in. Perhaps “slowly” isn’t fair, it’s just that we are always so eager. Also undergoing a green transformation this weekend was our living room floor at Good Cheer. It has taken us a while to figure out what to do with this previously white-painted floor. Now, there are places, especially in magazines, where a white-painted floor looks really great, and I know there are people who could make a white floor work for them, but our living room is not that place, and we are not those people. The through-traffic in the room alone makes it impractical, not to mention the stove and wood and accompanying mess. We would have loved to strip the boards of paint, but aside from the work that would take, we also read that every time you sand down floor boards you are making the boards thinner (obviously) and since these already thin boards are all that stand between us and the cellar this seemed like a bad plan. So what colour to paint? Much humming and hawing. But after our bold decision in the bedroom, we once again figured “it’s just paint” and settled on a green, Pineapple Sage, one step darker than the “nettle” on the mantle.
We are happy. Goodbye white, and hello green.
This weekend at Good Cheer we painted (or rather, finished painting) the floor of our bedroom red. Quite a bold decision, I think. Well, in fairness it isn’t that bold because a) it’s just paint b) once we have a queen size bed in this small room the red will not hit quite as hard and c) we decided to paint the bedroom floor red after choosing NOT to paint the living room floor red. Gary wanted to but I just couldn’t get my head around it – there were too many elements to the room and I am very conservative with that kind of thing. But it seemed like the bedroom was a safe place to give red a go.
I’m pleased with it. We are changing the wall colour too, probably to something creamy, but since the floor colour was our starting point we decided to do that first. (Yes, I’m aware it makes more sense to paint walls first but never mind that.) It is still wet when we left today so I couldn’t get the painters tape of the baseboards for the photo, but then it will look even better.
We have been doing some more painting at Good Cheer. Choosing the paint colours was a bit of a challenge because of all the lovely windows and lovely light. The colour changes drastically at different times of day so what seems perfect in the morning might not even be among our top choices in the afternoon. But we were on a bit of a schedule and had to just go for it!
This is the living room where we spend a great deal of our time, especially now that it is chilly and sitting in a front of the fire is a favourite pass-time. We picked a cheerful “winter wheat” for the walls and “nettle” green (very appropriate) for the hearth. The room has a mix of stripped woodwork that has a beautiful richness of colour and white woodwork and paneling, and has a white floor. We are still talking about the possibility of extending the “nettle” colour to some of the white woodwork (no, we would never paint the stripped woodwork!) but are a little bit nervous of this since having mainly white woodwork as a constant through the house seems important. But we have lots of time to think about that. And meanwhile we can feel that we have really started to change the feel of this room, and make it our own.
Remember I mentioned that lovely light? Our extra-long weekend at the house was full of it. Of course, I could never capture it with the camera, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t venture out on the beautiful frosty mornings and try!
I was using chalk with a young friend this morning when we came to body tracing, that old favourite. It reminded me of a very simple activity I’ve done a few times with my classes, and when I checked back in my photo archives I found a good example. First we read I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, in which a boy paints every part of his body in. Then we use large paper and do tracings of each child’s body with pastel. The paper is not large enough for the whole body so the kids just pick which part they want to do – the head and shoulders, arms or legs. Then, we decorate. Sometimes the children look back at the book to get ideas for how they might want to proceed. This is really where reading the book pays off, because otherwise there is a tendency to just colour the body all one colour, or draw clothing, but when they take inspiration from the book the designs take off!
I generally do this activity starting with pastel, so they can do some more intricate designs and then pass out the paint for that large-scale, messy feeling that is in the book! Of course, the pastel resist the paint so in the end the artwork is quite stunning.
Today in class we made scrolls. This was yet another project designed to incorporate several different techniques and activities.
To make the decorative paper top and bottom of the scrolls we started with some texture rubbing using pastels. The kids were interested to see what textures would create interesting marks and I provided lots of scrap paper for exploration before offering them their pieces for the scroll. We then returned to the rubbings and painted over them with, causing the pastel to act as a resist.
For the middle of the scroll the children created foam collograph printing blocks of their initials. I have done these many times before but this is the first time I’ve encouraged them to build a frame abound the edge of the block, which helps the printing process. Also, I find that they understand compositionally that they are working within the confines of the block but after we print things sometimes tend to look “floaty”, because you don’t see the square, so the frame idea worked out well. The subject (first initial) is also particularly developmentally appropriate since at that age kids are very keen on spelling their names (“I start with L!!!”) and we had a lot of discussion about that.
After everything was dry (or nearly!) we glued the top and bottom papers around dowels and to the letter print in the middle. It was an enjoyable class and seemed like a nice mix of activities.
This week’s class for little ones is called First Impressions and it’s all about print making! This week I am trying to structure the class so that each day we work on a different “piece” using a variety of techniques and media. Obviously, with a lot of printing and stamping. Today was found object printing.
First, I taped a grid pattern on some fantastically large pieces of watercolour paper using painter’s tape.
I let the kids loose on these with watercolours to create a background for our prints. The tape acts as a resist and when it was removed the white lines add a bit of visual interest. (In retrospect I think it also helped them cover the page)
Then the printing began. We used a variety of found objects pressed onto homemade print pads (felt covered in paint) in gold and black. The gold didn’t show up much but the black was great. The results are quite beautiful.
Children always enjoy printing with found objects and discovering what marks they make, but the results are sometimes slightly underwhelming. Of course, exploration is very important and it is good to value that without feeling the need for a finished product. But all that being said, there are also times when “framing” exploration in a way that will make a “piece” is worthwhile as it encourages excitement and helps peopled realize that what is going on is special. This experimentation is quite striking and it feels important because of that.
Coming as it did in the midst of many other things, this little project got forgotten. It is nothing groundbreaking but it was a simple enjoyable project which I’ve decided is worth documenting, if only for my own records! Once again I participated in leading and art class that was filmed for a kids TV show. My topic was “texture”. We explored texture through touch and rubbings and discussed texture words. Then I introduced the project. We created texture boards as the base for paintings using a number of different textured materials: cloth, felt, tin-foil, sandpaper, bubble wrap, stripped corrugated cardboard all glued on a cardboard base. The children fell upon this part of the activity with much gusto and created wonderful collages. Ideally I suppose you would let it dry for a bit (the younger the child, the longer the project needs to dry, as young children frequently use “ample” glue) but we didn’t have time and it didn’t matter much. As our focus was texture (and also I admit for logistical reasons) each child had a choice of one colour and white to work with. The different effects of the materials is striking and suggests lots of possibilities for including textured backgrounds in other work. The pieces are beautiful on their own but also make good references pieces for future exploration. We also discovered that the children’s pieces looked beautiful lined up together like tiles but of course I didn’t have my camera….. When we were finished we discussed the work, and the children shared which materials they particularly enjoyed painting on. There are many more possibilities for the collage if you have time to collect them, or don’t need to supply materials for a large group. (I’m thinking lace, different papers, plastic, mesh….)
So if you are looking for something a little different to do you can give this a go with almost every age. If your child is too young to glue you can create a texture board yourself that they can then experiment painting.